In 1987, the Pontiac Silverdome - long since sold for less than 1 percent of what it cost to erect the impressive stadium - was home to one of pop cultures most enduring moments.
The Super Bowl? The NCAA Final Four? The Academy Awards? How about Wrestlemania III:
The event is particularly notable for the reported attendance of 93,173, the largest recorded attendance for a live indoor sporting event in North America. Though the attendance number is subject to dispute, the event is considered to be the pinnacle of the 1980s wrestling boom. Almost one million fans watched the event at 160 closed circuit locations in North America. The number of people watching via pay-per-view was estimated at several million, and pay-per-view revenues were estimated at $10 million.The brainchild of entrepreneur Vince McMahon, Wrestlemania has become a worldwide phenomenon that brings an economic impact of 1/6 that of the Super Bowl to the host city:
The Super Bowl is done, the Oscars have been handed out. Now World Wrestling Entertainment is gearing up for its signature event: WrestleMania.Fans from around the world travel to whichever city hosts the event to help ensure that Wrestlemania is a financial success:
While not the enormous moneymaker the Super Bowl is, the annual main event in pro wrestling has brought WWE and its host city good returns in recent years.
The granddaddy of wrestling PPVs has created revenue of more than $30 million for WWE in each of the past three years. Total company revenue for 2009 amounted to $475 million.
Its 26th edition takes place March 28 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., following a slew of related weekend events.
In last year's second quarter, WrestleMania generated about $8.4 million in live-event revenue and $21 million in PPV sales thanks to nearly 1 million buys, which helped lay the groundwork for a WrestleMania revenue contribution of $32.2 million.
That compares with the $68 million-$81 million in annual ad revenue recorded for the Academy Awards telecast for the 2007-09 time frame and the $154 million-$213 million annual ad haul during the same three-year period for the Super Bowl, according to Kantar Media.
Meanwhile, WrestleMania's bottom-line contribution has fluctuated more, with profits ranging from $7.1 million to more than twice that in recent years. The company succeeded in improving the profit contribution since a weaker 2008 result...
The showcase doesn't bring the same economic impact that the Super Bowl brings to a region, but it does stimulate commerce and tax revenue in host cities to the tune of tens of millions, according to Enigma Research, which has measured the impact of WrestleMania for WWE in recent years.
The regional gains in the $50 million range in the past couple of years compares to studies that estimate the Super Bowl's economic impact in the hundreds of millions, depending on location and what is calculated.
Houston hosted WrestleMania last year and the Super Bowl in 2004. Despite a recession, WrestleMania XXV at Reliant Stadium created $49.8 million in direct, indirect and induced economic stimulus, according to Enigma. About 600 full-time jobs for the area were created, and local and regional authorities raked in $5.7 million in tax revenue.
Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, said at the time, "The direct expenditure demonstrates that WrestleMania is indeed economically on par with the world's greatest sports and entertainment offerings."
Super Bowl XXXVIII brought $300 million-plus to Houston and surrounding areas, the city noted when it announced that it would bid to host the NFL title game in 2012.
From the numbers above, WrestleMania is making a fair amount of change. Looking at the three most recent years, let us break down WrestleMania in terms of the WWE's total numbers.
WrestleMania 23 generated $31.4 million in revenue and $6.6 million in profit net of tax. For that same year, the company had $485.7 million in revenue and $52.1 million in profit, meaning WrestleMania accounted for 6.5% of revenue and 12.7% of profit.Black people love wrestling. Some might argue they believe the choreographed sport is actually real, unable to discern the intricate planning that goes into a "worked" match that closely resembles two dancers instead of gladiators fighting to the death.
WrestleMania 24 saw $31.3 million in revenue but just $4.6 million in profit net of tax. In that year, the company had $526.5 million in revenue and $45.4 million in profit. With that, WrestleMania accounted for 5.9% of revenue and 10.1% of profit.
WrestleMania 25 had $32.2 million in revenue and $9.7 million in profit net of cash. This was in comparison to $475.2 million in revenue and $50.3 million in profit. This lead to margins of 6.8% of revenue and 19.3% of profit.
Wrestling might be fake, but its still real to Black people. And thus, the lack of Black wrestlers to cheer for has always been a source of contention for Black people who have consistently found sports the best way to identify with the eternal struggle for Civil Rights.
William Rhoden wrote in his oddly titled book 40 Million Dollar Slave - since so many Black athletes decide that the money they earn in sports isn't worth saving - that Black people have always identified with Black athletes as part of the eternal struggle to gain legitimacy in American life. Having Black people to cheer for in the NBA, MLB and NFL made life as second-class citizens easier to digest.
Indeed, as SBPDL contends, were it not for sports and the positive image they helped create of Black people, then the election of Mein Obama would never have come to pass and the images of Black presidents in movies would be all we have to live with.
The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) corporation has had an interesting relationship with Black performers that contradicts the NFL, NBA and MLB's glorious integration, as Black athletes competing in the sport of professional wrestling have a notoriously difficult time at "getting over" with the crowd.
In wrestling, the crowd dictates who is accepted as either a heel - bad guy - or a face - good guy - and Black people in the WWE have had difficulty generating any heat - crowd reaction - either way.
A Gallup Poll in 1999 looked at the demographics of wrestling fans and came up with startling conclusions:
Still, despite the hoopla, wrestling remains a preoccupation with only a minority of the American public. A new Gallup poll conducted August 16-18 shows that only 18% of Americans consider themselves to be fans of professional wrestling. This compares to Gallup's estimates that about 59% of Americans are professional baseball fans, and that 41% are professional basketball fans.So, Black people love pro wrestling yet rarely does a Black wrestler succeed in the sport. Again, wrestling is fake and the ending of the matches is predetermined before the match participants enter the squared circle.
Not surprisingly, wrestling fans tend to be young males with high school educations who earn less than $30,000 annually -- and their political ideology tends to lean Democratic. Very few college graduates claim to be professional wrestling fans, and the fan percentage among those over age 30 is also quite low. One interesting note: despite the predominance of white wrestlers on wrestling shows, the percentage of black fans is greater than the percentage of white fans by a two-to-one margin (33% of blacks count themselves as professional wrestling fans, compared to 16% of whites). There are few regional differences, except that the East has fewer wrestling fans than other regions of the country do.
However, the wrestler must use his charisma and skill to connect with the fans and generate interest in his character in order to further his "push" - how the company will promote him with wins in building his character - or else he will be lost in the shuffle and become fodder to help "put over" more promising stars.
Black people in wrestling routinely become "jobbers" and "enhancement talent" as they can perform admirably and athletically in matches, but the crowd in attendance doesn't connect with them in ways they do with white wrestlers.
In the important book on the rise of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Blood in the Cage, the author L. Jon Wertheim points out the similarities between real fighting and pro wrestling, mainly the link between the white fans having white athletes to cheer for and identify with.
Pro wrestling offers an intense look at how the madness of crowds can influence the direction of a wrestlers career as they can reject a "push" a promoter wants to give a wrestler and dictate how that wrestler will be utilized (to see an amazing moment where a crowd dictated the action of a "scripted" sport, watch this match from Wrestlemania XX where future UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar fought former NFL Star Bill Goldberg).
Wrestlemania is the ultimate showcase for pro wrestling, as we have shown, and yet Black people have been left off the top of "card" - those who are booked to wrestle - in many of the 25 previous Wrestlemania's. Conspicuously absent from the main events of the prior main events of Wrestlemania, Black people thus have a difficult time of getting over with fans on their own accord.
Without handouts and being pushed down the throats of wrestling fans, Black people find themselves lacking the popularity and appeal that enduring stars such as Hulk Hogan, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, John Cena, the Ultimate Warrior and other white stars maintain (indeed, Black wrestlers are relegated to the match-up entitled "Money in the Bank" at Wrestlemania, and even there, a Black wrestler has never won).
The Weekly Standard published an interesting article 11 years ago about pro wrestling and how it correlates to the idea of the nation-state:
The nation-state might be eroding, but tribal beliefs are hardly an anachronism when McMahon's WWE promotion is considered in terms of white wrestlers getting over with the crowd, such as Randy Orton, Edge, Chris Jericho, John Morrison and The Miz. White fans want to cheer for white wrestlers, as they are deprived of this same gesture in other sports.
The state of professional wrestling today thus provides clues as to what living at the end of history means. It suggests how a large segment of American society is trying to cope with the emotional letdown that followed upon the triumph of capitalism and liberal democracy. If the vast wrestling audience (some 35 million people tune in to cable programs each week) is a barometer of American culture, then the nation is in trouble. Indeed, the very idea of the nation-state has become problematic. For wrestling has been denationalizing itself over the past decade, replacing the principle of the nation with the principle of the tribe.
The erosion of national identity in wrestling reflects broader trends in American society. If one wants to see moral relativism and even nihilism at work in American culture, one need only tune in to the broadcasts of either of the two main wrestling organizations, Vince McMahon's Worldwide Wrestling Federation and Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling. (It is no accident that one of the pillars of professional wrestling is Turner's cable TV empire, which also brings us CNN, the anti-nation-state, global news channel.) Both the WWF and the WCW offer the spectacle of an America that has lost its sense of national purpose and turned inward, becoming wrapped up in manufactured psychological crises and toying with the possibility of substituting class warfare for international conflict. And yet we should remain open to the possibility that contemporary wrestling may have some positive aspects; for one thing, the decline of the old nationalism may be linked to a new kind of creative freedom.
The Rock - Dwayne Johnson - is a former WWE superstar that would be pass the paper bag test and represents the only Black athlete to headline a Wrestlemania (yes, Lawrence Taylor was at the boring Wrestlemania XI, but he wasn't a full-time wrestler).
Yet, he was never truly accepted by wrestling fans and left for the fertile grounds of Hollywood (which aren't as fertile for him in terms of box office receipts anymore).
Here is a list of Wrestlemania main events. The prestigious club of wrestlers who have a main event of Wrestlemania on their resume is nearly an all-white affair.
Why is this? Why can't Black people get over and become stars like white athletes do in pro wrestling?:
In days before Vince McMahon Jr. and the territorial system, African-Americans have been stereotyped as either the Vaudevillian clown or the militant, angry black man. The promoters never put the World title on a black man for fear fan rioting or the illusion a black man cannot carry a company and represent as a champion. The other stereotype was African-Americans belonged in boxing, while whites were wrestlers. In the early times of pro wrestling, a promoter would not dare to put a white wrestler against a black wrestler, how would the crowd react to a black man pinning a white man...Wrong. There hasn't been a Black Heavyweight Champion in the WWE since the comedic effort put forth by Booker T, who once called Hulk Hogan a "nigga" in a hilarious promo.
In today's wrestling environment, the wrestling public does not see race as evident as before and the majority of the white viewing populace does not see a problem with a black world champion or an African American beating up on white wrestler. The audience mostly sees it as one wrestler beating another wrestler. Sometimes a promoter will still use a stereotype for a black wrestler, such as the case of the Gangstas, N.O.D. and Cryme Tyme, but the use is generally used to tell a story or get a wrestler or team over with the fans. The Gangstas were used and were thought of because at the time Gangsta Rap was the music craze, and what better place to showcase a pair of thugs but on Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Wrestlemania is an important revenue stream for the publicly traded company WWE and to trust Black people with bringing in profits is a task Vince McMahon has only entrusted the incredibly white acting Dwayne Johnson - The Rock - with, and no other Black star (Mr. T was Hulk Hogan's tag partner at the initial event, but Hogan and Roddy Piper were the real "draws").
Thus, Stuff Black People Don't Like includes Wrestlemania Main Events, for these bouts have always included a white star battling a white star. For a company worth 17 dollars a share finds the notion of entrusting a Black athlete with carrying the promotion a difficult concept to digest, since wrestling fans have yet to find the "push" of a Black athlete worthy of getting behind. And WWE has stock holders to answer to if the product suffers.
Psychological, white people yearn to cheer for other white people in athletics, and they identify with white wrestlers far greater than with Black grapplers.
You have to get over with the crowd to be accepted in wrestling. Black people live in a world governed by BRA (Black Run America) where the media, school systems and entertainment industry constantly pushes them. Yet in wrestling, they live in a governed by white fans who yearn to cheer for white athletes.